- By David RothkopfDavid Rothkopf is visiting professor at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs and visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. His latest book is The Great Questions of Tomorrow. He has been a longtime contributor to Foreign Policy and was CEO and editor of the FP Group from 2012 to May 2017.
Some thoughts to start the week:
-If it takes 90,000 documents to tell you that the war in Afghanistan is not going well, that the Pakistani government is not a reliable ally or that many American troops are frustrated with the situation on the ground, then you haven’t been paying attention.
-If the release of the Wikileaks archive had come during the Bush administration, Barack Obama would have been the first person out there hailing Wikileaks for their contribution to America’s national security…instead of condemning the organization as the White House did over the weekend.
That said, while there was little that was revelatory in the Wikileaks archive, the appearance of the archive marks what may someday be seen as an important watershed. When President Obama took office, Afghanistan was Bush’s war. When President Obama released his new strategy and redoubled our troop presence there, it became his war…but it was still argued that he was cleaning up Bush’s mess. Now, after almost half a term in office, not only is this Obama’s war…but it is increasingly hard to see it as anything but an ugly, deepening mistake.
The release of this information gives a feeling and a tone that the sparse coverage we have had of the war has been lacking. More than anything, it gives Afghanistan the actual feel of Vietnam. Not only are the goals unachievable but our partners are corrupt and our government’s representations of what is happening in Afghanistan are often laced with deceptions, partial truths and self-serving spin.
This is the beginning of the end for this failed venture. Even the President’s most ardent supporters will peel away from him on this with increasing speed. He will focus on the exit with increasing urgency. And it will be very interesting to see how the President’s new man on the scene, General Petraeus, responds to the policy shifts to come.
In the end, it’s all a race between the Afghanisation of this conflict and its Vietnamization. Can we hand it off before it decays further, producing collateral damage that will include the political future of this president?
-It is time for Al Gore to step to the back of the bus. Gore and the other usual suspects in the push for climate legislation have failed. That’s not to say they didn’t face strong opposition. It’s to say that after having lost repeatedly to that opposition it is time for them to step aside and let new leaders present new ideas. Cap and trade is dead. The green movement has gotten the politics wrong. A new approach combining bi-partisan legislation driven by economic and energy security concerns with an emphasis on self-financing initiatives and leveraging private and foreign investment is key. But so too is going to be using regulation as an effective driver and working hard to advance policies at the state level where much of the real innovation in the U.S. is taking place.
-Isn’t China’s timing of its announcement to move toward a carbon trading system in the next several years fascinating? It comes as a stark counterpoint to America’s bumbling on this. It sends a message that China gets it and that we don’t. And it’s no accident. They know what they are doing and they knew how their decision would be received in the context of the flame out of climate and energy legislation on the Hill. Their decision sent two important messages…
-First, China has a sense of urgency on these issues. We don’t. Why? It could be one of the most important questions in the world right now.
-Second, for all the talk — by the Chinese as well as outside observers — that they are not ready to lead on the international stage, they’re doing it. On climate here and on climate during international negotiations, on currency adjustment, on economic reform, on Iran, on North Korea, they have led or been hugely effective behind the scenes. Increasingly, reports come out of bilateral and multilateral international sessions that the Chinese have been impressive and have driven the discussions-sometimes through advancing their ideas, often by simply going slow and knowing the world can’t go faster than they are willing to. They are proving to be the canniest diplomatic players on the international stage at the moment. You may not love everything they’re doing, but you have got to admire their effectiveness.